Campus Life  

Vernon Woman Picks up a Hammer at Okanagan College and Nails Down Her Future

Okanagan College Media Release

A 20-year-old Vernon woman is making concrete decision about her future, thanks to enrolment last year in Okanagan College’s innovative Gateway to the Building Trades for Women program.

The 300-hour program, which gets underway this year on Sept. 20th, inspired Krystle Babott to enter carpentry this year at Okanagan College where she will be nailing down her future prospects with more hands-on training and practical experience in the construction field, including working with concrete.

“As carpenters in B.C. we do framing, we do roofing, and concrete, so that means I’m going to be learning how to make concrete stairs,” says Babott.

This time last year Babott had no idea whether a career in trades was for her, but she was willing to take the plunge after her mom spied an ad in the local paper. When she learned tuition fees and even the tools themselves would be covered, she couldn’t resist.

“I never would have been able to do this program if it hadn’t been for that. I didn’t have any money saved at all,” she said.

Within months Babott, who previously spent time working up north putting together pre-fabricated buildings, got her hands dirty tackling skills as varied as plumbing, carpentry, and installing electrical boxes.

“We got to build a model house, a shed, complete with outlets and everything. It’s encouraging. It feels good to know you’re a woman and can still do things like that,” she says.

By the end of the program, Babott was hooked, and ready to nail down a career in carpentry. This fall, she’s enrolled in her second year of the Women In Trades program.

Babott represents exactly what the Gateway program is all about – a chance to whet students’ appetites with experience of a variety of trades, before they decide to officially hone their trade skills with a certification program. It’s a formula that’s working.

John Haller, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship, says nearly 200 women have taken part since the program’s launch in March 2009.

“Women continue to be under-represented in the trades according to the labour market analysis. The Gateway program gives them a chance to try out seven to eight trades and go from there,” he says.

Funded through the Industry Training Authority with assistance from the federal government, the program has become a great success, says project manager Nancy Darling, especially for its target group: underemployed and unemployed women.

“They may be women who have been out of the workforce for a couple of years, older workers, or even workers who were laid off in related fields,” Darling says. And when it comes time to finding that job, there’s help there too. The United Food and Commercial Workers have come on board to assist with the job search process, as has the B.C. Construction Association, and women themselves.

“We now have a cluster of mentors for the women – ladies working in the trades who have agreed to help these women navigate the waters once they’re ready to enter the job market.”

“It’s so inspiring to see women who may be nervous or have low confidence and within a matter of months they’re totally confident and have a developed skill set that they can then use to build a better life for themselves and their family,” says Haller.

Interested women can learn more about this innovative program at the Women In Trades Information Session, which takes place Monday, August 23 from 5:30-7 pm in room D314 at the Kalamalka campus in Vernon.

The program covers a wide-range of trades including, but not limited to, carpentry and joinery, electrical, plumbing, drywall/painting, insulating/vapour barrier, roofing/flooring and automotive.

There’s still time to enrol in the 10-week long (300-hours) fall session, which gets underway Sept. 20th at the Vernon Trades Centre. Eligible students include women who are unemployed and/or underemployed adults and not currently receiving Employment Insurance benefits (EI).

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